Sunday Spotlight… Steal Your Face 10th Anniversary Special!

The band Steal Your Face is no stranger to One Unified and vice versa. We’ve featured the band before, they are regulars on our entertainment calendar and our interviews with frontman Paul Baroli Jr. go back to the earliest days of our project. So this week we are happy to feature them once again for our Sunday Spotlight because this week they are celebrating their 10th anniversary as the band that we have come to know and love.

Happy Anniversary Steal Your Face!

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A band known for turning clubs and bars into psychedelic rock shows is celebrating their 10th Anniversary in 2016. Steal Your Face played their first shows in 2006 and they are proud and slightly shocked at what they have accomplished over the last 10 years. “What we have now, the scene, the community, the fact that our shows have become a gathering place of friends and not just Dead Heads but now Steal Your Face fans is just humbling to me.” Says founder and front-man Paul Baroli Jr.

The band now known as Steal Your Face played their first show at a friend’s wedding in April 2006. “We had just started kicking around and putting some tunes together, they asked and I jumped at the chance – probably biting off more than we could chew”.  For their first year the band was called August West and even though it featured current members Baroli, Curt Eustace and Garry Engel, things looked much different than they do today. “I was playing acoustic guitar and sort of prancing around a lot, putting on more of a show than a musical contribution. A guy by the name of Steve Lynn put us all together, he had placed an ad on Philzone, (a Grateful Dead fan site in honor of Dead bassist Phil Lesh) I answered the ad and met Steve as well as Curt and Garry not long after.”

Garry Engel had experience in a popular country-western band called Union Pacific and had just retired from owning his own heating and air conditioning business, Engel Heating and Air. Garry’s first Grateful Dead concert was at Franklin and Marshall College in 1971, seeing the band’s original line up.  Garry is a life-long rhythm guitarist and has been the only full-time rhythm guitarist in Steal Your Face, “I’m amazed at the music that we produce. It has to do with our high level of talent, our love for music and the love for each other. By the end of each set, I’m shaking from the excitement of making such great music. Of course, I love our fans’ enthusiasm. It’s the icing on the cake!” Paul and Garry formed a friendship and partnership that keeps the band business running to this day. The two manage the band together, Engel said, “We complement each other really well. We both put our experience in other businesses to work for the band.”

“The first time I heard Curt play guitar it was obvious to me the kid was special.” said Baroli. “The Kid” was 15 at the time and was happy to hang around the band and play when he could along with the band’s first drummer Chris Brennan. Chris was Curt’s childhood best friend who tragically passed away in 2010.

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2007 Benefit Show Trenton, NJ (from left to right) Baroli Jr, Engel, Eustace (notice Curt is playing bass)

After a few shows in 2006 frustrations in August West started to grow and Baroli convinced Engel to leave and regroup as Steal Your Face. Curt and Chris were teenagers and were not legally allowed in the establishments the band was playing. Baroli and Engel decided to seek players who were over 21 and in 2007 Steal Your Face performed with a lineup of Baroli, Engel, Mike Christy on lead guitar, and Mikey MacBride, Baroli’s cousin, on drums. “Mikey’s from Miami, he was an all-state jazz drummer in high school and going to school at Drexel in Philadelphia. Garry and I found a drum set on Craigslist and bought it for him and we were off and running.” said Baroli. Of Christy Engel said, “Mike and I hit it off, he was at Woodstock and we are of the same generation. His experience really helped us out.”

The band has seen several lineup changes since those days, most notably bringing Curtis back to play lead guitar in 2008. Says Engel, “All the things we’ve been through, all the moves we made or had to be made, they’ve always worked out for the best. It’s always just felt like it was moving in the right direction.” Baroli chimes in, “slow and steady baby.”

Paul, Garry, Curt and drummer “Blue” Lou Zalvino formed the core of the band for the next 5 years. Baroli said, “Lou is a marine, he expected us to work hard and we did. We were not only having fun but starting to draw people and book regular gigs. We’d put together a couple of new songs during the week and debut them on the weekend. We’ve always wanted to keep our shows fresh and innovative and in those days we had to run to keep up.”

The band started to gain some accolades during that time performing at Gathering of the Vibes music Festival in Bridgeport, CT in 2009 and winning the 2010 Bucks-Montgomery County Music Award for Best Jamband. Steal Your Face was building a loyal local fan base as well as appearing at music festivals up and down the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. “Some shows will always stand out, dream come true stuff. Pennypack Park Music Festival in Northeast Philly. I used to ride my bike past that amphitheater when I was a kid. I would get on stage and pretend I was putting on a concert there. Then one day there I am, standing on that stage and literally looking out at thousands of people on the lawn. One of the few times I’ve been physically rocked by nerves, my legs were shaking walking out for the first song.” said Baroli.

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Pennypack Park Music Festival 2011, the band’s first appearance there.

Following the birth of his daughter in 2011, Lou decided he wanted to focus more on his family and left the band. The core four had become three and the guys were not only missing their friend but on the hunt for a new drummer and solid lineup. “They were strange times. We had shows booked and people showing up to see us. We had an obligation to be “Steal Your Face” but it was tough. There were weekends where Friday Me, Curt and Garry would play out with two guys and the next night me and Curt would be on stage with three different guys. We stayed unified and strong and persevered, staying true to what we felt should be done with the music and eventually got the right guys together and solidified the lineup.”

Those guys were keyboardist Dan Galvano and drummer Matt Ginsburg. “Danny G” had spent about a year with Steal Your Face while studying music at The New School in New York City beginning in 2009. The burden of the band’s schedule as well as the commute from New York and his classes proved to be too much at the time and Danny’s first stint with the band came to an end.  Upon finishing school, Danny came home to Lawrenceville, New Jersey and was playing with his original band “The Bansai Bills”. “We always loved Danny and were real glad he was back in town. He was the first keyboard player we had that really fit with us and it seemed like we went through hell with keyboard players when he wasn’t with us. There were a lot of them.” said Baroli. “Too many” adds Eustace.

Matt Ginsburg came to Steal Your Face with a quarter century of experience playing the music of the Grateful Dead, “I named the band Living Earth in 1980 and played with them for 25 years. This band takes that experience and expands upon it with nonstop energy and love.” Of Ginsburg, Baroli says “We just love the guy. Musically, he’s so much more than a drummer. He taught me how to sing harmonies correctly and nuances of this music that were missing.”

Most weekends the current lineup of Baroli, Engel, Eustace, Galvano and Ginsburg can be seen performing at bars and clubs in and around Bucks County and Philadelphia. “We’ve been Blessed to build our lives around this music, the shows, the love and each other.” says Baroli. Spring and summer bring music festivals for Steal Your Face. Keyboardist Dan Galvano said, “We love the festivals. Travel and adventure, camping and partying together.” Ginsburg adds, “Playing outside for big crowds is where it’s at.”  The band’s upcoming schedule includes a Cinco De Mayo party at Chickies and Pete’s on Roosevelt Blvd Thursday May 5th. They will be kicking off this year’s Pennypack Park Music Festival on Wednesday May 11th and have a schedule full of music festivals and local shows through the summer.

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The 10 year anniversary celebration culminates July 23rd at a music Festival called “Caveman’s Love Fest” in White Haven, PA. The band has a four-hour headlining time slot that night and plans to bring back several alumni to share the stage. “I’m really excited about that. The festival is at a great campground just two hours from Philly with running water, bathrooms, a lake and an in ground pool. We are really hoping a lot of our fans who spend weekends at our local shows will make the trip. I’ve been in touch with some of the guys we used to play with and can’t wait to see what kind of music and collaborations are made that night. It will be a true celebration and love fest.” said Baroli. The band may include more festivities later in the year, information and their full schedule at their official website http://www.StealYourFaceBand.com.

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 March 2015 50 Years Greateful Fest Reading, PA

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Steal Your Face (from left to right) Garry Engel, Curt Eustace, Matt Ginsburg,
Paul Baroli Jr., Dan Galvano

Inside the World of Local Music…

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My weekend often includes live music. It’s my happy place, my sanctuary, my release to a week of responsibilities and demands. But when our work week ends, the local musicians and bands are just beginning. Often, our favorite bands have jobs too and after work on any given day, they rush home only to pack up their gear and set up at a local venue to entertain us. Now, I’m not pitying them. They get paid to do what they do (sometimes they even get paid well), they have the adoration of their fans, they get to play and create music, to be a part of something pretty special. However, I understand that it’s not all glitz and glamour. There are things that go on behind the scenes that many of us are not privy to: hours of scouting venues, fighting for fair pay, and sometimes adversity with some of the musical community. I was curious about what happens behind the scenes.  I reached out to some of Philadelphia’s local talent (that have been featured on One Unified in the past) to get a behind the scenes look into the world of local music. Thank you to Krista Doran of Stems and Seeds, Bill Luber of Chowder, Dean Rubenstein of Jah People, Larry Bishov of Hotlanta, Paul Baroli of Steal Your Face and Brodi Valos of Dirt Road Anthem for sharing your insight with me and our readers. Your contribution here and musically is greatly appreciated.

How long have you been in a band?

Brodi: I’ve been with Dirt Road Anthem for just about two years now. First band I was ever in, I played a trumpet and I was 10 years old.

Bill: My current band, almost 9 years. On and off with other bands since 93-94 maybe.

Krista: Since 2007, so 9 years now. Wow – I didn’t even realize that.

Larry: Since 1969 (in different bands)

Paul: Pretty much my whole life. I was in the elementary school band and was in my first rock band at 15. I’ve been in Steal Your Face for the last 10 years.

Dean: I have been in Jah People for 3 1/2 years.

How would you describe the culture in the local music scene?

Brodi: If I had to describe the local scene in a word, I’d say it’s “intimate”. Everyone pretty much knows one another to some degree.

Bill: I personally find the music scene somewhat healthy. I say somewhat because I don’t like the constant battle between bar owners and bands that deserve respect, when it comes to pay. If a band has a good following and puts butts in the seats and the cash register is ringing all night, why give us a hard time about our pay. We’re not asking for ridiculous money. Just want what’s fair. We spend time at practice a couple times a week, we do homework and learn songs, we buy expensive equipment, and lug all that heavy equipment and load in and load out. That’s a ton of work. Most of the owners don’t even promote. I’ve actually had one bar owner say “not sure why you guys even get paid, all ya do is sing songs.”. That’s clearly not the case. It’s a business for us too. If we bring a hundred people and the average person spends 50 bucks, that’s 5,000 dollars. And it could have been more if they promoted the show as much as we did. So if we do all the work and bring all the people and load all the equipment, why complain about our tiny paycheck. But as far as culture amongst other bands, I don’t really have any issues. I like and respect every band.

Krista: For the most part, there is a feeling of camaraderie and unity. Many of us have become good friends and will support each other by going to shows or doing shows together, give advice, share contacts, support causes together, etc.

Paul: Little of this. Little of that.

Dean: Unfortunately, I’ve found that the vibe in Philly has been mostly “every band for itself”. There have been some crossover and cooperation in the past, but lately there has been less and less collaboration, both musically and business wise.

Have you ever encountered a “situation” with another band that left a bad taste in your mouth?

Brodi: No, not that I can think of. I don’t always get along with everyone, but who does?

Bill:  I have had some situations that have left bad taste in my mouth but the good thing about that is I dont have to be in their band. So for me, if I don’t like something another band did, I am old enough to know not to deal with them anymore and just move on. No big deal.

Krista: Absolutely. I mean, we have always been very supportive of our friends and other musicians that we know. On the flip side of that, yes, there have been some that have decided to try to discredit us. We work hard at what we do and it shows. For anyone to try and influence others to not support us, or anyone else for that matter, is pretty ridiculous. It doesn’t hurt us because our fans and friends are very faithful. It does however, hurt the music scene as a whole, and I don’t think these particular musicians even care about that.

Larry: Not in my experience.

Paul: Plenty.

Dean: Certain guys from bands feel the need to carelessly bash other bands and musicians on social media. This type of behavior often contradicts the righteous ideals that they claim to be practicing.

Why do you think some bands find the need to bash/criticize other bands?

Brodi: You’d have to ask them for their reasons. I’ll criticize weird, pretentious, rock star, super hype stuff. It just seems so crazy to claim that they’re going to rock someone’s face off in a place that has a 12 foot ceiling. Or the guys my age claiming that they’re getting or giving out record deals. Come on, dude… no one gets those anymore.

Bill: Musicians are notoriously stereotyped as egomaniacs and look at music as a battle for who’s best. I personally, in my years, have only encountered that a couple times. When I first got into bands, I was kind of expecting to hear so much shit from jerkoff so-called superstars but that never really happened. I have heard a couple people say “Chowder sucks” or “how come you guys hire Chowder and not us, they ain’t as good as us?” Ya know what I say? Fuck them guys. I could care less. It’s like an actor reading a review of a movie he or she was in. The movie does great in the box office but there’s that one critic that didn’t like it and slams the movie. But in the end, the theaters are packed so what do ya say? Fuck em. So as long as you’re working hard and the music connects with people and everyone is happy, so am I. That’s all that matters.

Krista: There are two reasons in my opinion: Jealousy and wrong assumptions. Bashing is never acceptable. In pretty much all situations, the one bashing is really the one that ends up looking bad. It also shows how unprofessional they are and makes it hard for them to get gigs at certain places.

Larry: Insecurities. Their ET (ego to talent) ratio is way out of line.

Paul: You’d have to ask them.
If you’re asking me about some of the things I say and post, well I know a lot of my friends, family, fans and even band mates wish I would keep my mouth shut sometimes. That’s not who I am. If I have something I feel needs to be said I’m going to say it.
I have a great respect for the fans. Music lovers. People who spend their hard earned money and valuable time to see a band. I appreciate that more than I could ever say. I think those people deserve certain things – like authenticity. If someone is asking me a question or reading on social media what “is on my mind” – I take that seriously, and I’m going to respect them by being real.

There’s a couple of guys and bands out there I’m pretty vocal about. I should also say I like to think I give plenty of kudos when they are due and that there’s plenty of bands I have lots of “criticisms” or things I could “bash” but I truly never want to bash anyone or be negative and don’t. There are some people out there and some things happening that I have some responsibility in. Maybe it’s regret on my part. I gave people a platform because they manipulated, misled and used me and my band, fans and family and I don’t feel good about them misleading anybody else. Sometimes I speak up and ruffle some feathers. Through the course of my musical career, as I think anyone in any career would, I’ve come across some not so good people. I’m not the kind of guy to stand by and keep quiet, it’s part of what makes me who I am.

Dean: It’s mostly jealousy and ego driven.

Has the environment changed since you started performing?

Brodi: From elementary school recitals at J.H. Brown to a Bud Light sponsored act. Yep, I’d say things have changed for me. But in all seriousness, things have changed a bit in the live music scene. There used to be so many more original acts and listeners who wanted to hear their music. There are still original groups but the local scene is more cover oriented.

Bill: The environment has changed a little. When I started, rock music was more relevant. More people were rockers and rock music was king. Now ya got industry pushing kiddy pop music like Justin Bieber and stuff like that. It sells to kids. This is what’s wrong with music today. Christ, there ain’t even music on MTV anymore. Doesn’t MTV stand for music television? But recently I have seen a couple young bands that have been playing. One I like especially is The Dead Leeves. These kids are teens. One of ’em ain’t even a teen yet and they play as well or better than some of the older guys. What’s really great is they are playing “real” rock and roll. It’s really great to see. Another band I have seen recently is Angus Road. Another group of young guys. Very good band. Just awesome to see a 15 year old play the Beatles. Hopefully those bands can keep this going.

Krista: I think it has. The scene is definitely changing, and for many reasons. The economy, of course, has played a big part in things. People don’t go out as much or spend money like they used to. There’s also a lot more places choosing to bring in acoustic acts or DJs who charge much less than a full band, leaving less places to play. It used to be that on a Friday or Saturday night, the question wasn’t IF you were going out to see a live band, it was WHERE. Now, a band is lucky to get more than 30 or 40 people out. There are many others, but those are two of the main reasons.

Larry: It’s very hard to find places to play and the pay has hardly changed in the last 20 years or so.

Paul: It’s constantly evolving. Mostly – people and bands come and go. Lineups change, venues come and go.
I’ve been fortunate enough to stick around for a little bit and learn from some guys who have been able to do this for a long time. You have to ride the waves.
I do think for me the environment that has changed has been in the amount of people who support us. There’s a hunger for Grateful Dead music like I’ve never experienced. I think part of it was their 50th anniversary in 2015 and also that there’s a lot of bands playing this music at a high level right now, each with their own unique flavors and interpretations, on a local and national scale. Around here, on any given weekend night Steal Your Face, Splintered Sunlight and Box of Rain can all have successful shows within a 30 mile radius playing the music of The Grateful Dead. That’s a pretty incredible thing for me to try and grasp.

Dean: The local scene, at least in the Northeast region, had been much more inclusive and unified, but unfortunately, there’s been quite a bit of segregation.

How would you change things in the world of local music?

Brodi: Everyone would get a pony and an ice cream cone. We’ll pay for it with the money that bars claim they never make. That’s what ya call “drunk accounting”, folks.

Bill: This is a tough question. I think to change things in local and all music is to get the kids back into rock n roll and show them what it’s like to have musicians play their own instruments and join with other guys (or girls) that play and then form a team. A team that has three, four or whatever amount of people that bring their talents together and become one that can combine sounds and form songs that can make people feel emotion. I hope it can happen. I hope it’s not too late to get the kids back. If it does happen, rock n roll will never die.

Krista: The only way is to set an example by being professional, gracious and staying humble. Always, always be at your best. This not only affects other musicians, but also the bars/club owners and the people who come out to see us. Set realistic expectations because when you promise the world and don’t deliver, it makes the scene look bad as a whole.

Paul: It’s all going the way Jah wants it so who am I to say?
I think a lot of us who play music would love to be able to get together more. Socially and to play together. It’s just hard to make it happen. One of our friends has to get mugged or something.

Dean: I’d like to have more multiple band events to give fans a chance to hear bands that they typically may not see perform.

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What advice do you have for young and/or new musicians coming up in the music scene?

Brodi: Cliché as this may sound – Just do it! And find a good lawyer. If all goes well, you’ll most likely need one. Possibly more…

Bill: My advice for the young kids would be to play with your heart. Do it for the right reasons. Do it because ya like it. Not because it can get ya laid or because everyone will think you’re cool. Do it cause music grabs your soul and ya want to to grab it back. Stay humble and work hard. Practice every day. Love what you do!

Krista: Do your homework and learn your craft. Don’t just get a few people together and start a band. Practice! Practice! Practice! Don’t go out half-assed. Make the investment in a decent sound system. Learn how to market yourself. Ask seasoned bands or musicians you know what works for them. Align yourself with professional people and do what they do. Take pride in what you do and appreciate it! Don’t act like you are a “Rock Star,” because you’re not. If you were, you wouldn’t be playing in a cover band at local bars. Be realistic and remember there is always someone out there better than you. Price yourself in line with other bands – don’t “undercut” just to get a gig. This lessens your worth! Most of all don’t be a dick to people. Make people feel good about you and the music you play.

Larry: Keep playing even if you suck because after a while, you won’t suck.

Paul: If you believe in yourself enough to want to attempt to do this, believe in yourself enough to be yourself. Stay true to yourself, don’t compromise yourself or your art. And remember that what you’re doing is important. It’s an ancient art form and it brings people joy. Always do it for the right reasons.

Dean: Play to have fun, utilize social media, it’s a great tool to gain fans.. Try to open or co-bill with popular bands who’s fans are your target audience. Stay humble.

Sunday Spotlight on the Road…The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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Typically speaking, we usually try to keep a local spin on the people and places that we feature on our Sunday Spotlight. This past week however, one of us was fortunate enough to be visiting a spot that resonates deeply with both of us. Being avid music fans, this is something that we feel passionate about sharing. We think too that our readers, many of whom we know are avid fans as well, will enjoy it.

I’ve traveled around quite a bit in my life. I’ve been to just about every state, Ohio included. In fact, I’ve been to Ohio many times. I’ve been in, around, and through Cleveland numerous times. For whatever reason however, I had never visited the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame. I’m someone who needs music to survive and thrive, someone who thinks of music not merely as a form of entertainment, but as an accompaniment to the highs, lows, and everyday moments of our lives.

Rock music and it’s related genres, along with the sounds that helped to create it, are my genres of choice. So, it remained a mystery why I’d never tried harder to get to the hall. But it remained steady on my bucket list, ever since I put it on there way back when. Until last Friday that is.

halloffame14When you arrive, if you’re not familiar with the exterior appearance of the hall, you will probably still recognize it right away. Sitting waterside on Lake Erie, right at the edge of downtown Cleveland, it is a bright, shiny pyramid amidst the boats, stores, and office buildings. Getting in and out was a breeze. Parking was close and reasonably priced. There are several doors in the front and staff are there to assist you. We walked in with ease, right to the ticket booth, and got our tickets to see the show. Grabbing a map will come in handy, especially if you’re a particularly organized person, like to do things in an orderly way, or want to be sure you hit specific exhibits. Or you can meander freely about like I did. Just be sure you make it to all floors and halls (all of which are numbered and with clear signage) and you should be able to see everything they have to offer. They also have a café, a gift shop (of course), and nice clean restrooms on each floor. The gift shop which I thought was going to be super expensive, was actually not that bad for what it was. I spotted a t-shirt I liked and dreading the price, I flipped the tag to take a peek. $23. Not bad at all for what and where it was.

halloffame9That what and where is a matter of a bit of debate among some people. Some see it as just another tourist trap. A museum essentially, like any other, that brings in out of towners (perhaps visiting Cedar Point or other nearby Lake Erie attractions) and gives them something else to do with the family. So they come in and they plunk down their $22.00 a person and get on their way. And no doubt there are a ton of those people who come through every day. I watched several of what appeared to be the average tourist, walking hurriedly through the halls of each exhibit, glancing quickly at every case and moving on. Some stopping to snap a photo or two. Oddly enough, many of them were not even photographing anything in or about the hall. Mainly selfies taken in the hallways, or group shots of people standing in the gift shop, or the café. As I watched them take pictures, or hurriedly walk by a great exhibit with barely a glance, I thought to myself, this is why… this is why there are people in music who think this place is merely a tourist trap.

Fortunately I believe that an experience is what YOU make of it. The hall is FILLED with absolutely incredible information, photographs, and memorabilia from some of the most talented and amazing musicians and music industry professionals ever. Some celebrated and easily recognized and some not so much. But with that wealth of incredible music history at your fingertips, you’d be doing a huge disservice to yourself as a music fan if you didn’t try to check it out, and to really take the time to investigate, understand and savor all that it has to offer you.

halloffame10Aside from literally having the clothes off their backs, there are incredible gems from every band, every solo artist, that you could ever wish to see. From Nirvana’s original first demo tape, to Janis Joplin’s signature spectacles. They have a letter from the FBI received by N.W.A.’s record label, criticizing the contents of the group’s music and proclaiming it to have a negative impact on national security. They have a concert rider for a Yardbird’s 1963 concert, and what can only be described as a whacky letter penned by Charles Manson and sent in to Rolling Stone magazine as if he were just your everyday reader. You can stand and gawk at one of the original suits worn for the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. You can revel in the fact that, with every turn, in every hall, you’re standing in front of a piece of living musical history.

If you’re going, there are some things that you may want to know. The hall is open 7 days a week. It’s open from 10:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. everyday but Wednesdays when it stays open until 9 p.m. The cost is $22 for adult admission, $13 for kids (ages 9-12), $17 for seniors (over 65) and FREE for kids 8 and under. Memberships are available and a 6% admission tax added to each ticket goes to support Cleveland Metropolitan Schools. You can get special packages and group rates for groups of 20 or more and you must call ahead if you plan to do so. All of this information and more is available at their website.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So, I hope you’ll enjoy checking out some of the exhibits through our pictures and on our Facebook page and on Instagram. And if you’ve been thinking of going, or even if you haven’t, it’s a must see for every true fan of rock n roll music.

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halloffame15 Top: Paul Simon’s acoustic guitar on loan to the hall from his private collection. Bottom: Collection of early era Rolling Stone magazine covers and memerobilia
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Nirvana 2 original demo tapes, concert promo posters, Kurt Cobain’s guitar.
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Jimi Hendrix exhibit. Suit, guitar, boots, and jacket.

Sunday Spotlight: Pure Jerry

This week, with Jerry Week in our rear view mirror, we moved on to a fresh new topic- forgiveness. It’s been a great week talking to people, hearing incredible stories of complete forgiveness (and maybe not so much) and more! Today in our featured Sunday Spotlight, we’re slipping back into music mode, and paying Jerry Week one final adieu until next year. Today we’re shining our (love)light on the band, Pure Jerry.

Pure Jerry brings to life the music and the spirit of the late Jerry Garcia.

Michael Morrow was kind enough to take time out to talk to me a little about the band.

purejerry1How did the band come to be the band- how did you wind up with your present lineup?
The band came together in 2012 after I had played for many years with a number of GD cover bands, reggae and jam bands on the road as a sideman. In 2010, I was playing with Steal Your Face, Splintered Sunlight, Grizful Dead on keyboards… just kinda lying low. Out of the blue I got the call from Melvin Seals and JGB to audition for the guitar spot. My friend (JGB bassist) Jimmy Tebeau contacted me after Stu Allen announced his departure. So I went out west and played but was passed over in favor of current guitarist Dave Hebert. Since I had done a few months of prep for that gig, a JGB style band seemed fun, interesting and timely. I just did not want to go back to being a hired player. Organist John Bigham is a huge Melvin fan and we knew just what to do. We have gone through a few lineup changes since our start but we recently settled into a solid group. Marci has been instrumental in helping me keep things together and get to where we have.

For those who might not know, what is your role in the band?
I play and sing the Jerry Garcia parts.

What sets you apart? Why should people come out and see Pure Jerry?
purejerry3The reason people should come and see us play is because we capture a sound that no longer exists. We have a lot in common with bands like Dark Star Orchestra, in so far as we bring a certain vibe of excellence without fakeness. Besides the modern version of JGB that everyone has heard, we also play Keystone era and classic rarities from the seventies and onward. For the discerning Deadhead, we are something different… a moment in time revisited. The music was the stuff Garcia really wanted to play and it has power. Our people just love what we do and they tell us all the time. We could not be happier.


And if people do want to come and check you out, what’s coming up next for you
?
Our next show is August 28th at World Cafe Live w/Karmic Repair Co. Then Aug 29th is a headlining spot at Wizfest in Laurens NY.

PURE JERRY is:purejerry2
Michael Morrow- Vocals, Guitar
Ivan Funk- Drum
John Bigham- Organ, Piano
Marci Segal- Vocals
Raija Madsen- Vocals
Keith Synder- Bass

For more information on upcoming gigs, band members or to see past set lists (trust me, they’re pretty cool), head over to their website www.purejerry.com and we hope to see you out at a show soon.

On Tour: A Former Follower of the Grateful Dead Recounts Tales From the Tour for Jerry Week.

You’d see them at every show. If you’ve been to dead shows, you’ve seen the droves of “tour heads”- people who made their living, their home, on the road with the Grateful Dead. Or maybe you’d just see them on the news when the Dead rolled through your town? Perhaps you heard about your neighbor’s nephew who blew off his scholarship to UConn to sell “Kynd Veggie Burritos”? Ever wonder how they did it? Why they did it? Or what they’re doing now?
We’ve got one story from the golden era of the good ol’ Grateful Dead….

tourticketWhen was yotourur first dead show?
July 30th, 1983. It was in Ventura California.

What’s the farthest you’ve traveled from your hometown to see the band?
That was actually probably the farthest from home I ever saw them, although technically I didn’t travel from my hometown to “see the band”. I was on vacation with my family. We were visiting my cousins. My cousin Jill was a deadhead and actually had an extra ticket to the show. I think I was maybe 14. She was 19. My parents reluctantly let me go with her and her boyfriend at the time. I think they still regret making that call (laughter).

You obviously caught the “bug”. Was it an instant thing once you got to that show?
I loved it right away. And I mean I can’t even say that I was a casual fan or I know a few songs from the radio. I literally had never heard a dead song in my life. I mean, I’m sure I heard Casey Jones or Truckin’ or something somewhere along the way, but literally went in with no clue. Not a clue.

So, did you intend to see them again?
I intended to go home and buy all their records. I intended to go home and find out when they’d be in my area. I intended to do whatever I could to make myself a part of what I had just experienced.

What was the next time you were able to see them?
Well, I was in 9th grade so my parents were not exactly on board. I definitely adopted the lifestyle. My clothes changed, my friends changed, the summer between 9th and 10th grade, I turned into a complete deadhead. But my parents wouldn’t let me go to any shows. It wasn’t until I was a senior, yes a fucking senior, that they agreed to let me go. And I know you’re thinking, why didn’t you just go anyway? But I was actually a total goodie two shoes when it came to stuff like that. But anyway, I talked them into letting me go to Hershey (in 85), and my older sister and my cousin went with so they couldn’t say anything. After that I knew that as soon as I turned 18, I was gone. I did the whole summer of 86 tour with Dylan and Petty. And pretty much every spring, summer, and fall tour from 86-95 after that.

So, how many dead shows would you say you’ve gone to (whether or not you got in)?
I wish I would have kept stubs for everything so I had an exact number. I know a lot of deadheads keep count, most probably. I never did. My best guess though is about 300. Although now that you said whether or not I got in, I’m gonna say it is more than that. We worked the lot for a lot of those so we didn’t go in to every show we went to.

So 300 you went inside for and many more that you did not.
Right.

When you say you “worked the lot”, what did you do?tourrfk
We (my 2 friends and long time tour buddies from high school) started out selling vegan banana bread and bottles of water. We eventually started selling beer. There was more money to be made there. We used to sell Sammy Smith’s Oatmeal Stouts. Wow. I haven’t seen one of those in forever. We sold Pale Ale’s and a few others too. We may or may not have sold “other” things along the way, but we kept it as legit as possible for the most part. My friend Gin did hair wraps. She did them for years and years and years. If you ever got hair wraps on dead lot, there’s a good chance Gin gave you one.


And that was enough money to sustain you?

Definitely. We had a good system. The first 2 or 3 shows of the tour, we’d sleep in the van. We’d shoot to get in to 2 out of tourpicsevery 3 shows. Sometimes we’d do straight up trades for tickets. Other times we’d just try to make enough cash to get in at least 2 nights out every 3 night run, and in the summer, we’d basically shoot to get into very stadium show. Easier to get in, plus it’s usually one at a time, so why bother heading to that town if you’re not gonna go in. Not like they’ll be another show there the next night (usually). After sleeping in the van for a couple of nights, on an off night, a travel day or a night we didn’t get in, we’d get a motel. Shower, do laundry, count money, get supplies, all that. We definitely had a good run. Never went more than a week without showering or washing clothes and stuff. I know a week probably sounds like a long time right? (laughs) Trust me, it’s not when you’re on tour!
So, how did you typically travel from show to show?tourbus
In our van. It was Gin’s brother’s van. He sold it to us for really cheap when he went away to school. We didn’t even use it for a year because we were still in school. We saved money and fixed it up. We pulled out the back seats and put a bed set up and like these drawer like things. And a little fridge. There was only 3 of us like 75% of the time, so it was perfect.

What about the other 25%?
Well, we’d have people come out with us occasionally. Sometimes we’d meet people who needed rides or whatever. I know it sounds unsafe, but back then it was quite different. We’d give somebody a ride from like Foxboro to Buffalo for like 10 bucks and some pot and maybe some of whatever they were making or selling. It was very communal, very barter system-esque.

If you were living “on tour” what were you doing in the “off-season” (the few times a year when there was no shows and no GD tour)?
There wasn’t much of an off-season. People think of the 3 tours a year. But they always played west coast shows in preparation for their tours so you’d have those, plus the Chinese New Year run, the New Year’s shows, there were Jerry band shows. I think we’d spend time at the beach or in the mountains. You know like at the end of a tour we might say, let’s take off to Santa Cruz and hang there for a few weeks until it’s time to head out for wherever. I myself went home every year I was on tour from Thanksgiving until like a day or two after Christmas.

What did your family think about it?
Um, they had a lot of real concerns at first. They were pretty pissed. But they did come around. They were grudgingly agreeable for the first couple of years. By the time I had been on tour for 5 or 6 years it was like old news. They worried like all parents do, but they would have done that if I was away at college or backpacking through Europe or whatever it would be. It even got to the point where they’d tell our relatives where I actually was instead of on vacation with my girlfriends or visiting friends in whatever state I might be in at the time.

Why did you do it? What made it worthwhile?
The music drew me in instantly. The people. The sights and the smells were intoxicating, literally and figuratively. I saw Jerry on that stage and I felt alive. I felt like I was literally flying around outside of my body and watching myself have an amazing time. And I was totally sober in that moment. After that it just became my way of life. Like anyone else has a daily routine, a way that they live, that was my way. It was worthwhile because I was happy. I was traveling and working and seeing amazing music and thinking for myself, and problem solving and doing all the things anyone else does, just in a different environment, and dare I say, having a hell of a lot more fun in the process! I learned so much. I met so many people. I saw so many things, so many sights and so many beautiful places.

 How did your life change when Jerry passed away?
The summer 95 tour was pretty bad. I mean, as far as Jerry looking just exhausted. But also because the vibe was so crappy. People on the lot were getting robbed on the regular by other people on the lot. You didn’t know who to trust. There was thistourvigil infiltration of kids who were not there for the right reasons at all. I think the scene was imploding. And I think it kind of had to. Between Jerry’s health and the gate crashers, and the accidents, and the drugs, I mean like hard drugs that were all over that had never been a noticeable issue before (at least not with our crowd), it was just a downward spiral. The band had so many people relying on them. I think Jerry dying was the only way it could have, or would have ended. For me personally, I was crushed. Gin and Stacey and I came home after Chicago and planned to do wash and hang out with our other friends and families and head out for fall tour. When the news came down we were shocked and crushed but not like surprised, if that makes sense. We took like a week or two to just talk and figure stuff out. Stacey decided to sell all her stuff and movie to Santa Cruz. She still lives there actually. She got married and works in some art studio or gallery out there as a receptionist. She has 2 kids. Gin and I stayed in Jersey. I went back to school in 97. I went to Temple and got a teaching degree. I wasn’t even sure what I was going to do. I would up moving to Costa Rica and teaching english in a little school that was run by a guy that I used to know from tour. Crazy small world, right? I lived there for 3 years. That’s where I met my husband. Things changed a lot after Jerry died, for all of us. Gin kind of stayed in that tour life. She gravitated towards the Phish scene and some other jam bands. I’d see her at shows from time to time. I haven’t seen her in probably 10 years now though. I’ve tried to find her. She’s not on Facebook or anything.

If you could go back and do it all again, is there anything you’d change?
Probably not. I might have tried better to keep in touch with friends from tour after Jerry died. I mean, I spent years with those people. Literally every day in close quarters. For a decade. And when Jerry died, it all just went poof! I can’t say I’d change much else. It was a great life while it lasted!